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Kvitova fends off Hsieh in delightful contrast of styles

Matt Zemek



Pierre Lahalle of Presse Sports for USA TODAY Sports

When you play Hsieh Su-Wei, you hope to play your way, but you have to realize that at times, you will be forced to play HER Wei. Petra Kvitova knew this before taking the court in Friday’s first Dubai semifinal. Yet, as I have said before, it is one thing to intellectually know what to do. It is quite another matter to apply one’s knowledge in moments of importance.

Kvitova applied her knowledge on Friday, losing the first set but battling pack in pure “P3tra” style to win a compelling match, 6-4 in the third set. Kvitova reached her third final of the season and — per Tumaini Carayol — her eighth final in the past 13 months.

Styles make fights, and Hsieh is one of the most conspicuously unique stylists on the WTA Tour, for reasons no one needs to have explained to them. Hsieh’s commitment to variety and her capacity to not only defend, but keep her retrieved shots within the court, force opponents to hit extra balls which travel at varying speeds and angles. If you play Hsieh, you have to be ready for the assortment of balls you will have to hit. If you play Hsieh, you have to be ready to hit several extra shots to win points.

Like this one:

Or like this one:

And you might not even win some points, like this one:

The test of tennis is so deliciously layered.

Hitting, running, hitting while running. Hitting while stopping. Hitting while reversing direction. Hitting while bending. Hitting while reaching. Hitting while stretching. Hitting while moving forward. Hitting while leaping backward. Hitting with pace. Hitting with no pace. Hitting rhythmically. Hitting without rhythm.

You get the point.

In some matches, the ball is basically on a string, as two players play ping-pong in extended form. Hsieh Su-Wei matches acquire all sorts of textures and tangled, tricky twists which ask opponents to hit, run, move and persevere in ways which create a complete tennis test.

Kvitova knew the test was coming, and she didn’t answer every question perfectly, but she did get an A.

Call it a 93 out of 100… and a spot in the Dubai final.

Class dismissed.

Matt Zemek is the co-editor of Tennis With An Accent with Saqib Ali. Matt is the lead writer for the site and helps Saqib with the TWAA podcast, produced by Radio Influence at Matt has written professionally about men's and women's tennis since 2014 for multiple outlets: Comeback Media, FanRagSports, and independently at Patreon, where he maintains a tennis site. You can reach Matt by e-mail: You can find him on Twitter at @mzemek.